Online casino sites operate freely in Canada thanks to the government’s ambivalence to internet gaming. Relaxed gaming laws have created an environment that is conducive to competition. What this all means for you is there are lots of options. Today, I’m going to help you narrow it down and find the best gambling site for your needs.
Let’s begin with a list of what I consider to be the best online casinos in Canada:
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Canada takes a far more permissive approach to online gaming than most countries. The laws don’t make it very clear what’s legal and what’s not, but it’s considered safe enough that even big name, publicly traded European companies are happy to take customers from Canada. This is great news for you because it means you have access to some of the largest betting websites in the world.
So if you’re looking for a place to play, there’s no need to limit yourself to gaming sites hosted under questionable licenses in third world countries. With names like 888.com open for business, you can play at sites that are hosted under the strictest licensing authorities in the world. Every casino you see listed above is safe and reputable. These are the sites I recommend to Canadians above all others.
Finding the Best Canadian Casino Sites
As you can see, I’m partial to large European casinos. Besides the fact that they’re licensed by the UK’s Gaming Commission, they have the best game selection and software in the business. These sites are run with the same attention to detail that you would find at any major land-based resort casino. You’ll actually be treated like a valued customer and your withdrawals will always be paid promptly.
What I look for from any casino site is a sense of professionalism. When a site goes through the trouble to get a license, submit itself to third-party audits and develop functional software, it tells me this site is in it for the long term. These are the types of sites that treat players like gold and make good on all promises.
I also like to do my own research and find out what other people have to say about certain casino sites. Browsing through discussion forums and searching for reviews are great for getting a new perspective on different aspects. Reading about other peoples’ experiences helps provide an independent look at how these sites operate. Every casino claims it’s the best, but the real story is told by actual customers.
It may sound funny that the best Canadian online casinos are located in Europe, but that’s just a sign of the times in which we live. Canada is a lucrative gaming market with a decent population and high disposable income so these sites make it a point to cater to Canadians. You’ll find all your favorite games online and be able to deposit with Canadian dollars.
Welcome bonuses are one of the first things I look at when choosing sites to recommend to readers. Bonuses are just one of many factors to consider, but a good bonus is always a major plus. It’s nice to sign up somewhere new and have extra money added to your first deposit. The best bonuses are worth hundreds of dollars and give you more chances to play games and win cash.
You can learn a lot about any bonus by reading through its terms and conditions. At a reputable casino, the terms are limited to specifying how much extra cash you can get and what you need to do to release the bonus money. One sign that you’re at a legit casino site is that you can actually clear the bonus within a reasonable time frame.
Customer support says a lot about how much a casino values its customers. A quick look at a gambling site’s “contact us” page will show you the various contact methods they have available to players. At a minimum, I like to see e-mail and 24/7 phone support. Some sites also offer live online chat. As long as there is a least one way to speak to someone in real time, I’m happy.
The other thing to look at is how sites respond to inquiries. Do they offer unique, thoughtful replies from real people or do they offer canned responses that don’t address the issue? Nothing is more frustrating than asking a casino a simple question and getting some response that makes no sense. Quality gambling sites always give personal responses to questions.
Software and Game Selection
Software and game selection go hand-in-hand; one without the other is a waste. The best Canadian casino sites offer both. You can expect to find hundreds of game variations backed by clean, crisp software at the top sites. This includes classic casino games such as blackjack and roulette in addition to slots, specialty games and even other forms of gambling such as sports betting and player-vs-player poker.
Deposits and Withdrawals
Deposits and withdrawals bookend the entire online gambling experience. Every visit to a Canadian casino will begin with a deposit and hopefully end with a withdrawal. Canada’s banking laws aren’t overly restrictive so you have a good number of options for funding your account and claiming your winnings.
Debit and credit card casino deposits are fast and simple. All you have to do is pull out your plastic, type in the numbers on the front of the card and choose an amount to deposit. If you have ever purchased anything on the internet, you already know the routine.
One thing you should be aware of before you deposit with a card is that there’s a chance your deposit is blocked. Most card issuers are based out of the United States where there are more restrictive gaming laws. Sometimes these regulations end up affecting Canadians even though the laws are much more relaxed north of the border. If you have problems depositing with your card, it’s probably a simple case of your issuer blocking transactions to gambling sites across the board. Don’t worry; you won’t be in trouble. You’ll just have to try a different deposit method.
You can also use a variety of online banking services that move money between your bank account and betting account without the use of a debit card. Basically, you sign up for an account at one of these services (iDebit and Instadebit are two popular examples) and then you can move money quickly over the internet.
Neteller once served Canadians, then left the market and returned again in 2014 with limited functionality. Today, Neteller allows Canadians to sign up for a prepaid debit card. You can load this card with funds and then use that card to deposit. Withdrawals cannot be processed back to Canadian Neteller accounts. Instead, you can have your money sent to your bank account via electronic transfer or receive a check in the mail.
Entropay and Paysafecard are two other prepaid card services open to Canadians. Each of these supplies you with a debit card (Entropay also has a virtual prepaid card that exists entirely online) that you can use to make deposits. Each of these is simple and inexpensive.
If all else fails, you can always use the trusty wire transfer or paper check to make a deposit or claim a withdrawal. Wire transfers are especially fast but they do come with a fee in the range of $30 depending on your bank. Checks are free but take a little longer.
Is Online Gambling Legal in Canada?
Canadian casino sites operate in a legal grey area. The laws on the books do not specifically mention online gambling so there’s no final word either way on the legality of online gambling. For the most part, it is assumed to be legal because it is not outlawed. Most major international casino sites accept Canadians and to date, I’ve been unable to find a single story of a Canadian being charged with a crime for placing a bet online.
The legal situation in Canada is interesting because it is legal to play but illegal to run a gaming site on Canadian soil. If you were to set up shop as a gambling operator in Canada, you’d soon receive a visit from your friendly policing authorities. However, you would not get in trouble for the mere act of placing wagers as a customer.
Further complicating matters, Indian territories within the boundaries of Canada decree that it is their natural right to operate online casinos. The Kahnawake Mohawk Territory in Quebec is home to one of the world’s largest internet gaming commissions, the Kahnawake Gaming Commission. Dozens of operators are licensed by the commission and host their servers on the reserve. You can find a current list of licensees on the commission’s website here.
Canadian officials at one point declared that the Kahnawake Gaming Commission operates contrary to Canadian laws, but nobody has ever made any serious effort to shut them down. The commission has been active since 1998 and will probably remain so for quite some time. Canadian politicians are loath to stir up controversy over aboriginal rights.
Several individual provinces have made moves in recent years to legalize online gambling and offer licenses to a limited number of operators. Sport Select offers a type of sports betting in several provinces under various names and is intended to act as a competitor to offshore gaming sites. The problem for the Sport Select group is that it operates under a restrictive set of laws that limit what the group may offer to players.
For example, betting on individual matches is restricted and the Sport Select group is limited to parlay-style wagers in which customers must choose the winners of two or more matches. Additionally, Sport Select is criticized for its poor odds in comparison to offshore bookmakers. Most Canadian gamblers prefer instead to do business with big-name international brands that operate under fewer restrictions and offer better odds for players.
The status quo today is to simply let players choose where and how they play online. This could always change in the future, especially if Canada one day gets serious about supporting local gaming companies. If Canada one day lightens up on the restrictive laws that bind local operators, it’s easy to imagine a crackdown on offshore sites. Until that happens, feel free to play where you want. You have many options as a Canadian gambler today.
Wes Burns co-founded OnlineCasinoSites.com with a mission to help gamblers understand and navigate the regulated online casino market in all countries around the world. Wes is a respected gambling journalist, working in the industry since 2008.